Healthcare professionals' attitudes to penicillin allergy labels

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INTRODUCTION: About 10% of hospital inpatients are labelled with penicillin allergy in their electronic medical record (EMR). However, allergy is confirmed in less than 10% of these records. Consequently, 90% of patients are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics, contributing to antimicrobial resistance. We aimed to explore experiences and practices of healthcare professionals that may explain incorrect labelling of penicillin allergy in Denmark and elucidate any consequences hereof.

METHODS: An electronic survey was distributed to physicians and nurses in six hospital units in Copenhagen and via social media. The survey was active from 19 March to 1 May 2020. Data were assessed using descriptive statistics and by thematic analysis.

RESULTS: The response rate was 44.6%. The survey had 369 participants; 152 physicians and 217 nurses. Half of the physicians and one in every five nurses had experienced problems treating patients with a penicillin allergy label. Physicians reported limited trust in allergy labels, and labelling practices varied. The risk that patients may be truly allergic was the main reason for not removing labels (72%), and a precautionary principle was identified related to penicillin allergy labelling.

CONCLUSIONS: The penicillin allergy label is an independent factor of medication errors. Solutions to enhance patient safety may include education of physicians in allergy labelling, decision support, standardisation of the allergy registration in the various EMR systems used, and ideally also a national drug allergy register, which is accessible from all sectors.



Original languageEnglish
Article numberA03230180
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Issue number9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Articles published in the DMJ are “open access”. This means that the articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

    Research areas

  • Humans, Drug Hypersensitivity/etiology, Hypersensitivity, Anti-Bacterial Agents/adverse effects, Attitude of Health Personnel, Penicillins/adverse effects

ID: 384862402